What You Need to Know About Herbal and Botanical Remedies

Dr. Stan Brewer

Among the many options we have to take care of our health are herbal and botanical remedies. In many cases science has proven that these natural remedies work well to treat various ailments and diseases.  However, I have often heard people say, “it is natural and therefore it is safe.”

While many natural remedies are indeed safer than some human-engineered drugs, natural treatments are not always free from side effects.  Many herbs can have the same effects, for good or ill, as drugs.  Some herbs can interact with regular prescription and over-the-counter drugs in harmful and even deadly ways. Also, taken in excess natural remedies can damage our bodies just like overdosing on drugs.  In fact, many vitamins and minerals can be toxic in too large of quantities.  It is therefore important to talk with your health care provider about any herbs or other remedies you are using for you health, especially if you are on long-term medications or have a chronic illness.  Your health care provider can make sure that the herbs and drugs do not interact or can adjust your doses accordingly.

Additionally, natural remedies sold as dietary supplements are not regulated the same way as drugs.  While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) helps to maintain the safety of dietary supplements, the effectiveness or side effects are not tested.  Sometimes the FDA finds that what is in the products is not what is on the labels.  While it is rare, the FDA has found some supplements that contain toxins such as pesticides, different active ingredients, or even prescription drugs in the supplements.  It is therefore important to be sure that you are obtaining natural products from reputable sources.

There are many benefits to taking natural supplements with or instead of traditional drugs. For the most part they are safe and many have been proven effective.  However, it is also important to remember that even though they are natural they can still have side effects, just like traditional drugs, and should be taken with caution.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine  has a lot of great resources on using natural remedies wisely.

Photo source: public domain


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